Richard Henry Benson was a globe traveling adventurer who (following the pulp trend of having rich heroes despite them all being "Children of the Great Depression") made his fortune as a "professional adventurer" mining amethysts in Australia
, emeralds in Brazil
and gold in Alaska
, making aerial maps of the Congo
and finding rubber in South America
After years of travel Richard decided he was ready to settle down and raise a family as an industrial engineer. But this was not to be when his wife Alicia and young daughter Alice were killed in a tragic plane crash. The crash had unexpected side effects on Benson. The shock of the ordeal left his hair and skin a ghastly pale and his eyes so pale as to appear colorless. But the most bizarre change was his face, now malleable as like clay. Thereafter his face would be described such as it was in ("The Smiling Dogs") as:
"...dead, like something dug out of a cemetery. The muscles were paralyzed so that never, under any circumstances, could they move in an expression. This dead, weird face was as white as snow -- as white, in a word, as you'd expect any dead flesh to be! In the flacial expanse of the face were set eyes so light-gray as to seem completely colorless."
And so as a result of this horrible tragedy Richard Henry Benson became the "The Avenger" and swore to avenge his family and all those who had suffered as he has. The Avenger would shape his face like clay and using hair dye and colored eye lenses would take numerous disguises earning the title "The Man of a Thousand Faces". The facial affliction would remain for the first half or so of the original series run. Later editorial orders would have it dropped in hopes of raising dropping sales.
Much like his predecessor Clark "Doc" Savage The Avenger was a brilliant inventor that may have even rivaled Savage. The Avenger had a slew of weapons and gadgets at his disposal such as knockout gas, a bullet proof garment, two way radios, and a glass pellet which would release a black impenetrable gas like instant night. He also would use two customized weapons "Mike" a streamlined .22 revolver that could shoot a man just touching the head and knocking him out and "Ike" a thin needle like throwing knife he could impale a fly with from across a room. The Avenger's car was equally well equipped. It could travel at speeds up to 130 mph (unheard of in the 1940's), contained mini torpedoes of knockout gas and bulletproof windows.
The Avenger was a contemporary of and considered an amalgam of The Shadow and Doc Savage (while Savage was the "Man of Bronze", The Avenger was "The Man of Steel", The Shadow had "Burning Eyes" The Avenger had "Marksman's Eyes".) but arrived a little late in the game. He could not quite gain the following that his rivals The Shadow
, The Spider
, Doc Savage
, The Phantom
or Operator #5
could. He first appeared in his own magazine for 24 stories followed by five more in "Clues Detective" than one final story as a back up in The Shadow. One of the last gasps of the pulp heroes made popular by Street and Smith
publications. Considered "The last good ten cent hero." Most of his stories wear written by Paul Ernst under the Street and Smith house name "Kenneth Robeson". The Kenneth Robeson name was also used by Lester Dent
and other writers of Doc Savage.
The Avenger much like Savage before him did not go into danger alone. He would meet other like minded individuals with unique skills to assist in his crusade against crime, they would be, Justice Inc
. Josh Newton
and Rosabel Newton
- Two African Americans who would go under cover as domestic workers to investigate for The Avenger using people's stereotypical views of them to hide their investigative skills and activities. Nellie Gray
- A beautiful young woman and an expert in martial arts. (Considered the "Emma Peal" of her day.) Algernon Heathcote "Smitty" Smith
- a 6'9'' man of great strength who while not looking all that bright was brilliant with electronics. Fergus "Mac" MacMurdie
- A Scottish pharmacist and chemist who is "indifferent to the threat of... death".
Cole Wilson - A late comer to Justice Inc. who had a light heartedness that contrasted The Avenger's more serious personality.